Monday, March 29, 2010

Strangeness

Hilarious things happen everyday at drama rehearsals, but they’re only funny in a you-had-to-be-there kind of way, or even a you-had-to-be-a-South-Point-student kind of way. But the public pleads for “more ridiculous posts.” (More posts which are ridiculous? Posts which are more ridiculous? Anybody’s guess.) So here’s a story of a few years’ vintage.

There was a guy in our college by the name of Rook, who was very popular among students and teachers alike. We liked him too, though we could see no obvious reason for his popularity: he seemed to possess none of the usual qualities which make people popular in college. For this reason, we called him “the strangely popular boy Rook.”

One day Arjun Sarkar and I saw something strange in college – I forget what.

“Strange,” I said.
“Very strange,” said Arjun Sarkar.
“As strange as the strangely popular boy Rook,” said I.
“As strange as the popularity of the strangely popular boy Rook,” corrected Arjun Sarkar.

I get a kick out of correcting people on pedantic points, and this was a correction I’d have been mighty proud of.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where can I find my family panda?

For Hindus, the ancient city of Haridwar is a place of pilgrimage and a traditional site for death rites. Brahmin priests at Haridwar maintain genealogy registers of Hindu families, sometimes stretching back twenty generations or more.

A pilgrim who visits Haridwar approaches his designated family-priest, who records his visit and any births, marriages and deaths that may have occurred since the last visit by a family member. But before that, he must find his family-priest. So a very common question at Haridwar, translated into English, goes: “Where can I find my family panda?”

Myshkin thinks this would be a good name for a backpacker’s account of travels in India, and I think he’s right.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Street Chess

Every evening, people sit on the road divider at Gariahat and play chess. This is one of the busiest intersections in the city. Horns blare and brakes squeal as a middle-aged lady, with two children in tow, nimbly dodges oncoming traffic, eyes fixed on the brightly-lit shop window across the road. Around them, thousands of people are noisily going about their business, but the chess-players are in a different zone.

I have been observing the chess-players of Gariahat for a few years, and I had formed many far-fetched but fascinating theories about them. But one day I decided to trade speculation for certitude, and I enquired, and I came to know about the GCC.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beckham at Old Trafford

Yesterday Manchester United knocked an inept AC Milan team out of the Champions League. But the man of the moment was the ageing David Beckham, returning to Old Trafford for the first time since 2003, but as a Milan player.

I was rather biased against Beckham in the early days because of all the media hype around him. But opinions change with time, and yesterday, I did not much care whether Milan won or lost; all I wanted was a goal from a Beckham free-kick, or better still, a goal from a Beckham cross.

It almost happened too. Beckham came on in the 74th minute, but still created some opportunities which may have been converted if not for the sheer mediocrity of the Milan forwards. And deep into stoppage time, he sent in his best cross of the match, a cross such as can only come from the right foot of David Beckham. A thing of beauty, a perfect cross – and with almost the last kick of the match, Inzaghi put it wide.

Football is so sad sometimes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Connoisseurship

Cellar door is often claimed to be the most beautiful phrase in English. Geoff Nunberg, in a recent post, set out to explore the reasons for its appeal. Among other reasons, he suggests: “claiming that cellar door is the most beautiful expression of English permits you to make a show of your aesthetic refinement.” It gives the aesthete “an occasion to display a capacity to discern beauty in the names of prosaic things. It’s a classic ploy of connoisseurship.”

Sometimes, when picking my favourite this or that, I settle for an offbeat choice, and then I wonder if it was an honest choice or a ploy of connoisseurship. One such example is my favourite food/beverage served on the Indian Railways.

The Konkan Railway is run by the KRC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, and it has quite a few quirks. But the most charming of them all is their custom of serving a cup of hot milk just before lights-out. The milk is the perfect temperature and has the perfect amount of sugar. And when you’re in a dark compartment speeding along the Konkan coast, sitting next to the window and sipping on a cup of hot milk somehow seems like the perfect thing to do.

In itself, a cup of hot milk would not rank higher in my preference than, say, an egg chop. On the Konkan Railway, the attendant circumstances make it special. But still, hot milk may strike you as a strange choice, and you are free to decide whether this is a ploy of connoisseurship; as I said, I am not sure myself. And I must admit that I have never travelled first class on the Rajdhani Express, and have consequently not tried their legendary roast chicken.

However, there can be no doubt about the worst food/beverage served on the Indian Railways. That honour incontestably goes to the Veg. Biryani.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wildflower

This is not a wildflower, despite the post title.
It is a plastic flower.
Realistic, but plastic.
Magnify and you will see.
The texture of the petals gives it away.

What was your first impression of the image?
Did the text spoil it for you?